TAB Chapter 6
Quest For a Dying Ember
Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight
It was 5 am, and time to start the day the right way-with treachery and theft that will definitely keep my business booming. I yawned ever so loudly to signal to my plants that mommy was awake and here for them. They sit just outside my bedroom window and I always sleep with the window open in case something bad happens to them. Last winter the moles tortured my poor saplings. That was the longest winter of my life because I didn’t get a wink of shut eye while I was on mole watch. I pulled the covers off myself only to look down and see a damp mess of fur plastered to my sweaty legs. I gotta stop sleeping with my comforter on! I swung my hooves on the hardwood floor and they made the most satisfying clicking noise that I look forward to every morning.
Today I was meeting with a new client seeking some basic training in herbalistic healing, so I knew I would have to visit the King’s extensive garden, Adelaide Garden House, I always visited the garden when I had new clients, to impress them with the finest herbs the nation had to offer. I would shave later because the only way I can get into the garden house is in my furry disguise. The first time I went I tried using my feminine charm with one of the guards. That majorly backfired on me though because my cloak got caught on his spear and exposed my voluptuous, meaty goat legs. You see, normally I wear tights but there was too much friction between my stubbled legs and the nylon.
After the embarrassing encounter I realized it was much better to embrace the fur for once. I typically skip the shave and graze until I get close enough to the fence and then slip in through a small opening in the back. My village is south east of the castle and garden house, a few miles outside the rougher neighborhoods. Even though my village was a nice place to live, small towns always talk and I was always in the circulating cycle of gossip. I tried my best to conceal my furry identity when I left for the green house, however I knew the bored house-gnomes were suspicious of me. I was able to sneak out in a tattered cloak and cut through the forest in order to snake my way there. It was a normal trip until something caught my eye on the way out. I was holding some rosemary and sage in my mouth when I stumbled upon a strange sign. It felt as though gravity was shoving me towards it. I inched closer only to realize it was definitely meant for someone else since the poster said something about only the strongest and most skilled citizens should consider taking on this challenge, but I stopped to read it anyway. My eyes felt like they were bulging out of their sockets as I scanned the words on the paper, the king was looking for an heir to his throne. I was so enchanted by the sheet I didn’t even notice the two guards patrolling the garden. I quickly tore the paper off the stone wall and snuck away. I then briefly met with my client who was totally impressed with my skills and quality of stolen herbs.
After retreating to the sanctity of my reading nook I studied the poster from earlier today over and over again.
The cryptic message King Cassius wrote was a bit hard to decipher, but I knew after some time I would get it. This sign sat with me for days, my mind toyed with the idea of being a queen. A mighty ruler respected by all, never being shunned for her outlandish looks or her profession. A queen is always respected, never embarrassed by arrogant guards. If she delivered to her people and served them rightfully then she would be showered with love and admiration. I needed to do this, not for me but for the hungry wolf inside me. Hungry for the love my mother neglected to give me. This would be the perfect opportunity to prove myself to her and finally receive her acceptance. I was panting and grinning violently out my window overlooking the garden. I felt so full of pride, addicted to the idea of thousands of people chanting my name…SON OF A FOPDOODLE! The moles are back!
After a tiresome night of mole fighting I felt groggy and sore I yawned and stretched a bit before leaving my bedroom. I put a cup of joe on and turned the tub faucet on. First I started removing my beard like clockwork. I stared at myself in my tarnished mirror, my body hunched over and I couldn’t help but grimace at the crows feet and forehead lines beginning to form on my face. I couldn’t keep chasing moles around in my garden, I’m thirty six years old I said to myself. Although I was no old goat I wasn’t a robust kid anymore. How would I compete when I was most definitely out of shape compared to all the young contestants who would participate.
I sprinkled some mint for prosperity and spearmint for good luck in the bath water turning it a pale, murky green. I need all the luck I can get, I thought. After all, soon I would begin my endeavor to prove my worthiness to the village. I whipped out my trusty, dusty, rusty razor which still had a clump of underarm hair stuck to it from yesterday’s shave and worried about all the difficulties yet to come. My performance in gym class was always okay as a kid, but I was far more capable of reciting sonnets and learning the pH scale than I was at fencing. I need some help. I screamed at my reflection. It's a hard thing for a faun like me to admit, but I needed to hire someone in order to win this race.
It took me around 2 hours to remove all my hair which was pretty good. The last and most painful step, trimming my hooves with giant, industrial pliers. My hooves were barnacle -esque and super hard. I gave myself an arm cramp clipping my right side and as I was clipping my left side, a chunk of crusted hoof flung into my eye! I cried until no tears were left in my body, the burning sensation in my socket was excruciating.
After my morning routine I ventured into town to hire a strong and capable young person to assist me on my journey. I visited the metal working shop which was a known place for finding kids looking for work. The shop owner, Hosea, was always hiring merchants who traveled to far away places to advertise work to able bodied people.
“What can I do for ya toots?” he bellowed. Hosea stood confidently with his huge stature and tattoos peaking through his burly arms. I contemplated hiring him, but it was well known he didn’t dabble in violence anymore, that was in his past. Despite his good nature he still made me nervous. Looks can be deceiving even after you know the truth.
“I’m looking for someone on the younger side, who can carry not only their weight but anothers in addition.”
He gave me a long, hollow look, “So, someone strong?” he smirked.
“Yes,” and I leaned in real close to whisper, “It wouldn’t hurt if they had some powers, you know like from a cursed object.” Hosea was the kind of guy who knew all the right places and alleyways to find those folks.
He gave me a surprised look, “Listen sugar, you don’t know what world you’re messin’ with. I know people, I got the connections, I just want to make sure you know what you’re doin’,” he laughed halfway through his sentence.
“I may be well spoken, but I didn’t always live in the burbs, I had hard beginnings like you,” I was angry now. “I’ve dabbled in many worlds,” I scoffed. It was true for a brief time in my twenties I participated in witchcraft, “poppy” pushing, even ventriloquism. “I just need a little assistance getting into this one.”
Hosea rolled his eyes, “Alright.” He had his poster maker sketch my image on a flyer and promised he would find me someone “special” as he said it. Falmer Galway, I signed at the bottom of the page in my sloppy handwriting.
A week or two later I returned to the blacksmithing shop where I was greeted by Hosea yet again. He told me his merchant hired a young man called Baraq to help me in my contest. “I wouldn’t trust him If I were you,” he started.
I bit my teeth down hard, “Why would you say that?” I wanted to make sure I wasn’t the one misunderstanding. “Ya know the type, a name like Baraq!” he chuckled, “Those desert thiefs bum around looking to scam helpless little things like you.”
My face burned with anger and instantly my voice boomed, “ENOUGH!” Close minded people were everywhere in this small town, my panting slowed after my outburst of rage. They take one look at you and think they already have you figured out. “You of all people should understand being misunderstood,” I tried reasoning with him.
He looked at me with disbelief, “I’m looking out for you Falmer!” I shook my head slowly giving him a horrible scowl, “You’re the town's tough guy turned good, surely you know what it's like to be stereotyped as a thief or a criminal!?” He turned around in silence and gave me a note with Baraq’s estimated arrival time all through an ugly glare.
“I don’t want you ever coming back here, are you listening?”
The whole shop bounced with my boisterous laughter, “You won’t have to worry about that.”
It was a relief to know someone with powers would be helping me, but strangers always made me queasy. I vowed to myself I would keep my secret goat like state from Baraq and the other contestants and most importantly any officials. I didn’t want my being a faun to interfere with such an important manner. I grabbed a sack to fill with basic herbalistic medicine, healing books, a small dagger, and other basic supplies. I bit my nails when I looked at the clock, we should have already been on my way to the castle. I paced around my garden waiting for Baraq to show up…What if he flaked on me?! What if he got hurt on his way over? “I’m an extremely rational person!” I shouted to my hydrangeas. I sighed deeply, “I know it isn’t your fault, I’m just a nervous wreck!” They stared back at me with an understanding look. I nearly fainted due to the speed of how fast I was pacing round and round the yard. I breathed in and out slowly for a few minutes trying to gather myself. I saged my quaint little house and makeshift shop and then locked it up, leaving my key under my Lord Bob Ross chia pet I spun on the throwing wheel myself. He was a fine painter and resident of a manor in a strange peninsula called Florida who I aspired to be. As I stared into the ceramic eyes of Bob in chia form, I knew I was ready to make my mother proud of the child she threw away.
Just as my courage appeared, so did Baraq. He had a dark complexion and coarse black hair, his eyes were the color of moss with flecks of a greenish yellow in them. He had a sturdy frame and looked strong. I noticed his strange dress right away, no one in my village wears clothes as modern as his, even the teens around his age. “
Hey!” He said through a thick, outlandish accent.
“Hi,” I replied quickly. “I wasn’t sure you’d show,” I said a little quieter.
“Oh yeah, sorry, you wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen today.” We filled the air with nervous laughter and when our voices faded I felt ready to leave. Everything was packed away and it was now or never.
“We should get on our way,” I said. He nodded, I noticed the slingbag he was carrying looked torn and threadbare like it’d been through an epic battle. A wave of relief passed over me, I’m glad he can withstand a battle, but I hope he can help me win a war.